The Seton Hall Veggie Society circulated a petition Wednesday morning in the Galleon Hallway, advocating for the ban of the live sale of fish by on-campus organizations and charging that the practice is unethical.
The event was set to take place at the same time and place as the Alpha Phi Sorority’s annual “Betta Phish” philanthropy fundraiser until the sorority promptly postponed the event via their Instagram late Tuesday afternoon. The event was supposed to raise money for women affected by heart disease through the selling of the fish. After the cancellation of the event, a representative of the SHU Veggie Society said that the club offered to collect funds to donate for Alpha Phi’s philanthropy – an offer which the club charges was initially accepted and then later rejected.
The representative said she later discovered that Alpha Phi was not allowed to accept non-pre-approved donations, though Alpha Phi could not be reached to confirm this.
Club President Anabelle Dunn contends that the scheduling of the event was completely coincidental.
“A big misconception is that we are targeting Alpha Phi as an organization exclusively, but that’s not true,” Dunn said, explaining that their event had been planned since last May and was scheduled over the summer before she was aware of Alpha Phi’s date.
“We just think that the live sale of animals on campus is problematic, because objectively it is,” she said. “We decided to go with fish because fish are distributed on campus, and it’s not just by Alpha Phi but also by the Student Alumni Association. All in all, it is just not an ethical decision to use live, breathing animals for fundraising purposes.”
Dunn said that her concern with the sales is that students often purchase or adopt the fish on impulse without understanding the fish’s actual lifespan or the level of care the creatures actually require. She noted that bettas need a five-gallon tank as well as heaters, filters and conditioners to keep the water purity standards in line with what the fish require to be healthy.
Student Government Association (SGA) President Rishi Shah came out in support of the Veggie Society Wednesday morning, signing his name to the petition and calling the practice “unethical.”
“We are well aware that most freshmen resident students do not have transportation to buy proper care supplies and do not have an adequate system to take care of animals during holidays. Considering the life span of fish and other animals, this is not a stable way of caring for live animals,” he said.
Shah also addressed the accusation that Alpha Phi initially accepted and then rejected the offer from the Veggie Society to fundraise for women affected by heart disease, saying that he felt it was “a lost opportunity to help those in need and does not reflect well on the philanthropic nature of this event.”
When asked if SGA planned to take any action to ban the use of SGA funds in the live sale of fish from recognized organizations, Shah said that such a matter would be up to the discretion of the next SGA Treasurer and their finance policy. Shah noted, though, that the “funding use for Greek, non-Greek and non-SGA organizations are merely University policy and that change should be enacted from a University level.”
Assistant Director of Student Leadership Michael Davis, who is primarily in charge of overseeing Greek Life, said in a statement that “the policy for all student organizations, Greek and non-Greek, states that organizations are not to have any animals on campus without permission from the Department of Student Life.” Davis said that Alpha Phi did have permission to host the event.
When asked if the University had any plans to change the policy, he said that “the Department of Student Life reviews policies and procedures for student organizations intermittently throughout the year,” leaving open the possibility of a policy shift.
The Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority also weighed in on the debate, posting a statement on their Instagram story encouraging students to sign the petition and calling on other Greek Organizations to “think critically” about the events they hold.
“The sale of animals of any kind is unethical and do not align [sic] with our values. We have never and will never sell animals for our organization’s benefit,” the post said.
Other students expressed similar views on the sale. Senior diplomacy and international relations major Ryan Tonra said he fully supported the petition. “Betta fish sold by the Alpha Phi sorority on campus are kept in inhumane conditions and I believe it is not good,” Tonra said.
Rebecca Rutherford, a junior marketing and IT double major, said she felt like the sale of fish was setting students up for failure. “A lot of people don’t even have the time to take care of a succulent being handed out, and a fish is like a living animal,” she said.
Not all were on board with the Veggie Society’s activism, though. An anonymous account branding as the “SHU Carnivore Society” – a play on the Veggie Society’s name – sprung up early Wednesday morning. In the bio the account calls itself an “anti-liberal activist” and “Alpha Phi supporter,” though there is nothing to suggest the account is affiliated with the sorority.
The Veggie Society has stated that despite the backlash, if their petition is not considered they will continue to table before other live animal sales and distributions on campus to raise awareness about the “standards of care” the animals need. “The policy which allows live animal distribution needs to be discarded,” the statement read.
Alpha Phi did not respond to repeated requests to comment.
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter at @NickKerr99